January 2008

An Interview with Alex Goodman
January 2008 Toronto
Interview conducted by Ori Dagan (photo by Ray Goodman)
Award-winning 20-year old composer, jazz guitarist and pianist, Alex Goodman recently relocated from McGill to the University of Toronto on the full entrance scholarship dedicated to Phil and Noreen Nimmons. He can be found hosting the Tuesday night Rex Jams during February or at various other gigs around the city, listed at www.myspace.com/alexgoodman. I recently got a chance to find out more about Alex Goodman, the man behind the music.

Ori Dagan With so many gigs around the city, you are obviously doing great for yourself. Have you always thought of yourself as a performer?

Alex Goodman I feel really lucky to be as busy as I am right now and have found it extremely rewarding to play regularly with some of Toronto’s best jazz musicians. While I’ve always been involved in various forms of public performance, I didn’t make the conscious decision to pursue jazz as my vocation until quite recently. I actually started off my university degree pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Spanish and French and a Bachelor of Music in jazz performance concurrently. Until lately, I had always pictured myself continuing my studies and professional endeavours in a non-music related field. Nowadays, music seems to be the direction I’m going in.

OD You lived in Montreal and now Toronto. In your experience how are the two cities and jazz scenes different?

AG While I love the city of Montreal, Toronto’s jazz scene has provided me with more opportunities to perform frequently and find my own niche. I’ve explored various thriving musical subcultures in Toronto ranging from flamenco guitar to Indian music and have tried to integrate them into my composition and playing. Toronto has also given me the opportunity to play with numerous musical projects and develop my name and musical individuality. In my opinion, Toronto is the musical mecca of Canada and provides ample opportunities to support young jazz musicians such as myself.

Alex Goodman

OD How is the U of T program different from that of McGill?

AG I truly believe that both U of T and McGill are world class jazz programs that produce some of Canada’s best jazz musicians. I made the choice to transfer to the University of Toronto when they offered me a generous full entrance scholarship dedicated to Phil and Noreen Nimmons. It’s been an amazing experience to meet, study and occasionally play with idols of mine such as Professor Nimmons, Geoff Young and Quinsin Nachoff. Being in Toronto has also given me more of an opportunity to combine my academic studies with the life of a professional musician.

OD What has been your most memorable gig so far?

AG In the last year I’ve put forward two of my most significant projects yet. In August I released my first album Roots with musicians Justin Gray on bass, Josh Park on drums and Jonathan Kay on saxophones. Our CD release was really exciting and provided me with a great opportunity to play my original music to a packed house. More recently, I wrote and debuted a five part suite entitled The John Galt Suite that combined jazz with elements of classical and world music, minimalism and film scoring. This was performed in December with saxophone great Quinsin Nachoff and provided me with a great opportunity to showcase my newest writing.

OD If you had to choose between guitar and piano?

AG I really enjoy approaching music through two different instruments. While I think of guitar as my main instrument, I still do a lot of writing and playing on piano.

OD Have you tried other instruments and/or singing and if not, would you?

AG I’ve recently found myself playing electric bass in occasional gigs and studied violin and viola throughout high school. I’ve had a brief foray into singing during my two years at McGill, when I needed to take choir as a mandatory course. Unfortunately, I’m not very good.

OD Who have been your greatest teachers?

AG I feel very fortunate to have studied with some exceptional musicians who have made a huge impact on me. I’m grateful to Toronto-based guitar player Rob Campbell for introducing me to jazz, but I feel like I’ve gained something from everyone I’ve played with. Lately I’ve been making regular pilgrimages to New York and have been lucky enough to study with such jazz giants as Ben Monder, Jim McNeely and Wayne Krantz. I’m grateful for all the lessons I’ve learnt from the teachers I’ve worked with, but find it hard to choose a top three.

OD Why did you pick "Out of Nowhere" and "Recordame" as the standards to include on Roots?

AG “Out of Nowhere” is a piece that I’ve always enjoyed playing through many stages of my development in jazz. I thought that it was a great opportunity for the band to showcase their skills on a traditional swing feel standard. As for “Recordame”, Joe Henderson is a huge inspiration to me and this tune has always been a staple in our repertoire book.

OD Can you tell us anything about what to expect from your next album?

AG I’ve been working a lot on developing a new and unique approach to composition, drawing on inspiration from visual art, literature and various forms of music outside of the jazz idiom. I plan to release The John Galt Suite on my next CD combined with some of my newer compositional ventures.

OD What do you want to achieve in your career more than anything else?

AG A unique voice paired with the opportunity to write and perform my compositions as much as possible. I’m passionate about music and want to be out there playing as much as possible.

The LMR was there > Alex Goodman John Galt Suite – December 14, 2007 <
We welcome your comments and feedback
Ori Dagan
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